View Full Version : Army issue assault rifle

06-14-2015, 06:56 PM
I'm sure there used to be a firearms threat but I can't find it so apologies if this has already been asked.

Can someone tell me what a standard army issue assault rifle would be? And, for someone who has never even held a gun, how does it work? How do you fire it and load it? Does it have a safety catch? Anything else I really ought to know? Any slang I should be aware of?

Many thanks.

06-14-2015, 07:29 PM
Which army? Because there's a list you can choose from.

06-14-2015, 07:30 PM
I think the term you are looking for is "military assault rifle", however, I don't like that term as all military weapons are for assault, not retreat. At any rate, what era are you looking for? (i.e., WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan) The military is constantly upgrading their weaponry. The ground troops utilize many different types of rifles. In my day, it was the M14A1 which fired a 7.62 x 51 cartrige. Then we went to the M16A1 that fired the smaller 5.56 round. Both were capable of full automatic fire, were magazine fed and definatly had a safety mechanism. The M14 had one in the trigger guard while the M16 had one on the side which was called a selector switch, allowing it to be on safe, semi auto fire or full auto. They are considered shoulder fired, gas operated, meaning the gas produced by bullet exiting the barrel is partially used to operate the bolt operating mechanism to automatically load the next round into the chamber. So, each time the trigger is squeezed, another round is chambered (semi auto). If it is in the full auto mode, one only has to hold the trigger down and the firearm will continue to fire until it's out of ammo or one lets off on the trigger. I'm really not that familiar with the newer M4 battle weapons or the newer machine guns such as the SAW, so if this is what you were wondering about, someone who has fairly recent military experience would be a better choice to ask about. One could get more technical but I tried to keep it as simple as possible in layman's terms. Hope this helps.

06-14-2015, 08:50 PM
Thank you Sheepdip - what a useful link! Although I'm now even more confused - what's the difference between semi-automatic and selective fire?

And Dinkydau, I'm looking at a combined NATO infantry force in the present day or very near future but there doesn't seem to be any standard weapon across countries! Any suggestiosn as to which would be the best to use are welcome.

06-14-2015, 09:25 PM
Thank you Sheepdip - what a useful link! Although I'm now even more confused - what's the difference between semi-automatic and selective fire?

Selective fire means you can switch from one mode to another, for example between semi-automatic mode and fully automatic mode. Most modern military assault rifles like the M16 or M4 have a semi-automatic mode and a fully automatic and/or burst-fire mode.

06-14-2015, 09:25 PM
I'd suggest that maybe you could have it as a PMC - private military contractor - that way you can just say they are dirt poor and just have AK47's and flash bangs. They can be affiliated with NATO, sure, but if you make them a PMC you have more control over their armaments.


06-14-2015, 11:02 PM
In my five year in the US Army, the only full auto weapons I ever had were squad weapons. We couldn't have enough ammo if everyone carried a machine gun. So, one machine gun(SAW) per squad and the rest were riflemen(M16,M4). Rifles have three settings, safety, semi-auto and three road burst. The SAW can be adjusted to increase or decrease the speed at which it fires at full-auto. This is not to say they don't have full-auto M4's, its just to say that everyday soldiers wont be getting them because they would be reserved for highly trained soldiers that would make good uses of them.

The US military is NATO, and if you don't believe that, I would have look around the world at every place NATO's being used. You will find that we're either doing the fighting or providing everything that's needed to do the fighting. So your NATO force could be mostly US troops with just a few thousand troops from other country's not unlike Iraq and Afghanistan. It's likely it would be a 5.56 round weapon because it would be mostly US troops with the M4. BUT! Almost every country I seen when I was in country carried their own style of weapons that might or might not have been 5.56.

Assault weapon/rifle is a politically charged word to scare people. I think it would be wise to use their names, or rifle and machine-gun because "anything" that can be used to attack something can be an assault weapon.

Your question is a tricky one if you haven't spent much time being around weapons. If its not to much trouble you should see if any shooting range in the area that rents out weapons, go try some out so you can get a feel for what your writing about. It's likely it will really open your eyes on the subject and its a total adrenaline rush! I hope this was helpful for you.

06-15-2015, 01:15 AM
The Bitish Army standard issue assault rifle is the SA80 http://www.army.mod.uk/equipment/23222.aspx as stated above they fire the 5.56 x 45mm ammuntion.
I belive the OP is in the UK so there will not be any ranges that rent out weapons for them to try out.

Dave Williams
06-16-2015, 04:09 AM
Whatever rifle you decide to pick, surf off to YouTube and you can find videos showing operation, field stripping, cleaning, and even repair. Plus videos of them in action by the military or competition shooters.

06-16-2015, 08:31 AM
Hi Dinkydau. Assault rifle term comes from the German Sturmgewehr 44 (sturm=assault, gewehr=weapon). First of its kind, even influenced Kalashnikov.
Now, to try answering the posted question. What country, which time frame?
If youíre talking the US (present) then you have the M14 (7.62x51), the M16A2 and M16A3 (both chambered for the 5.56x45), the FN SCAR (in 7.62x51 or 5.56x45 and come in long or short-close quarters barrel length). Besides the US you only have a handful of designer countries: Russia (with its many new variants of the AK), Germany (Heckler&Koch), Switzerland (SIG), Israel (IMI), Italy (Beretta RX4), Finland (Valmet), and Belgium (FN SCAR). The rest are production for internal consumption (Poland, Austria, France, Argentina, Czech Rep, Serbia, Hungry). Exception would be China, major manufacturer for both internal and exportóbut they use reverse engineering to copy primarily Russian weapons (though they did copy US, German, and Belgian ARs).
I suggest you look them up (plenty of sights with info on this subject) and find the best fit for your story/character. As you say itís a NATO force, they will probably have different weapons. No problem. They all fall into the 7.62x51 or the 5.56x45 class ammoÖthatís why itís called NATO round.

Drachen Jager
06-17-2015, 01:44 AM
And Dinkydau, I'm looking at a combined NATO infantry force in the present day or very near future but there doesn't seem to be any standard weapon across countries! Any suggestiosn as to which would be the best to use are welcome.

One weapon gaining popularity is the FN SCAR. After several decades of the 5.56 round, many NATO countries (driven by the US) are now realizing that the switch to lighter ammo for jungle fighting (adapted for Vietnam) isn't really the best all-purpose ammo, so the 7.62 version is a common choice for many militaries. The versatility of the weapon system, with a snub-nosed, medium barrel and accurized long-barrel (good enough for basic sniping purposes) makes it a versatile system. If I had to guess what platform a near-future pan NATO force would go with the SCAR would be it.

Typical military assault rifles are gas operated (there is a vent near the end of the barrel which discharges gas into a piston or tube which forces the action back, springs then drive it forward, loading the next round). Most have a safety that moves to several positions, safe, semi-auto (single shot each time the trigger is depressed), and full-auto ("machine gun"). Some models also have 3 and/or 5 round burst modes that will fire that number of shots with each pull of the trigger. They are usually fed by magazine, or "mag" (NOT A CLIP!) which fits in the under-side of the weapon. Typical 5.56 mags are 30 rounds and typical 7.62 mags are 20 rounds.

Also, to learn lots about all the different military firearms, past and present, I recommend this site. http://world.guns.ru/index-e.html.

06-17-2015, 02:09 AM
And Dinkydau, I'm looking at a combined NATO infantry force in the present day or very near future but there doesn't seem to be any standard weapon across countries! Any suggestiosn as to which would be the best to use are welcome.

NATO doesn't standardize weapons but they do standardize ammunition. That means you will likely be firing 5.56 NATO rounds. Take a look at the list of service rifles and choose one that fits your needs:


Then, take that particular model and go to YouTube and watch some videos on that particular rifle.

My suggestions would be:

M16A2/M4A1 (USA and a number of others, especially anyone the USA has sent weapons to)
H&K G3/G36 and other H&K options (Countries that share German choices)
IMI Tavor TAR21 (Israeli and a number of others that like the bullpup design)
Steyr AUG and other flavors (Quite a few European and former European colonies)
Beretta AR70, 90 and ARX-160 (Countries with Italian influences)
MK17/FN SCAR (Newer rifle getting a lot of attention, US is moving that way, though it's 7.62x51 NATO and not the more common 5.56)

If it's going to be modern or near future, I might lean toward a MK17/FN or an IMI Tavor. You can't lose with a M4/M16 because there are many of them just about everywhere. You could move up to a 7.62 NATO round, many armies are starting to and the MK17 seems to be the next wave. AK's are 7.62x39 and are probably a second-class option, especially for NATO members, but are really common for just about every Freedom Fighter/Terrorist on the planet.

Good luck.


Drachen Jager
06-17-2015, 03:07 AM

Don't forget the SA 80, FAMAS, and Sig 550 (UK, France, Switzerland (and some places where they hold influence) respectively).

06-19-2015, 01:21 PM
Thank you Sheepdip - what a useful link! Although I'm now even more confused - what's the difference between semi-automatic and selective fire?

And Dinkydau, I'm looking at a combined NATO infantry force in the present day or very near future but there doesn't seem to be any standard weapon across countries! Any suggestiosn as to which would be the best to use are welcome.

What countries are your NATO troops drawn from? There is no real "NATO army." The North Alliance Treaty Organization is a treaty between countries for military defense. Even in a multinational effort the troops have to come from *somewhere* and they will be armed and equipped with whatever the standard rifle is in that country's military.

So, what country are the troops in your story from? Answer that, and we can tell you what rifle they use now.

Btw, this lack of standardization of equipment across countries is one of the reasons why each countries forces will operate as independent units. For example, a British force might be designated to operated in a certain geographic region, and a U.S. force might be on their flank, and a German force might on their other flank, but those three forces will each use their own equipment and fight according to their own doctrine and training. A higher command will coordinate the overall effort. Just don't expect to see multinational troops all mixed up in one unit, it doesn't work that way.

06-22-2015, 09:07 PM
You guys are amazing! Thank you so much! Such a wealth of information! Thank you once again!

06-23-2015, 12:14 AM
1) Can someone tell me what a standard army issue assault rifle would be? 2) And, for someone who has never even held a gun, how does it work? 3) How do you fire it and load it? 4) Does it have a safety catch? 5) Anything else I really ought to know? 6) Any slang I should be aware of?

7) what's the difference between semi-automatic and selective fire?
(Bolded numbers added to the above quotes.)

I think you have adequate answers already for the following questions: 1, 4, 7. Here are some thoughts on the rest, according to the question number. Brace yourself, this is going to get long.

#2 and #3: Combined due to similarity. Different guns work differently (and are loaded/fired differently), but here is the basic idea common to most firearms.

Modern guns are made of metal, often with wood or polymer parts to reduce weight or maintenance. Non-metal parts will be those which don't have to take as much stress. Despite rumors and pipe dreams, there are no guns commercially available or in widespread military use that do not include metal.

Basic gun parts (http://offgridsurvival.com/basicpartsofagun/). Not all guns conform to these images (notably, bullpup designs like the P-90 (http://world.guns.ru/userfiles/images/smg/belgium/1287829331.jpg)), but they cover enough to be a great starting point. The page I linked to isn't the most beginner-friendly description, but do read it as it has details I won't cover here.

The stock is placed in the inside 'curve' or 'hollow' of the shoulder. This is to help the shooter deal with recoil (explained later), allowing better accuracy, among other things.

From your comments, I'm going to assume you understand the functions of a safety and the trigger. The trigger guard literally guards the trigger from accidentally being pushed.

In a very broad sense, the action contains the bolt, the receiver, and all the other parts that make the gun actually do anything. This gets complicated and isn't required for a basic overview; feel free to look up these parts on your own if you wish. Various parts of the action can be gummed up with dirt, grime, etc. Failure to keep these parts clean can result in malfunctions. Modern guns, particularly those deployed in militaries, are designed to work even when dirty, but there are limits to what a gun can handle (and for how long) before issues manifest. Many military movies show soldiers dismantling and reassembling their rifles- this is because real-world militaries do train for this, helping soldiers maintain their weapon in the field or quickly clear a jam. The repetitive training may serve other, more psychological, purposes as well.

The barrel is where the bullet goes once fired. After repeated, rapid firing, a barrel will heat up. The length of a barrel is important for long-range accuracy: longer generally means more accurate. Shorter barrels allow for more rapid responses in close-quarters combat (the P-90 I linked above is one such design).

A scope can be mounted atop the barrel, usually where the picture says "rear sight." You do not place your eye right next to the scope when firing, as the scope is attached to the rifle and will hit your face when the weapon recoils. Scopes come in many types, from basic (think binoculars on the gun) to infrared or laser sights.

An iron sight, or simply sight, is used to aim when no scope is attached. Two sights are placed on top of the barrel; lining the two up visually with the eye, so your eye makes a straight line to the rear sight, which makes a straight line to the front sight, enables a shooter to aim properly. Firing without use of a scope or the sights is almost always much less accurate (and is often called "firing from the hip").

The muzzle is the end of the barrel. This is where a silencer (more accurately, a suppressor) may be attached. No gun shot can be silenced completely, but the noise can be reduced (typically by 20-40 decibels, for example from 160 to 135 decibels). Suppressors often hide the "muzzle flash" (a flash of light seen at the muzzle when a bullet is fired).

A bullet, cartridge (http://i1113.photobucket.com/albums/k517/dewittdj/CartridgeComponents-Labeled.jpg), round, or shell are all terms used somewhat interchangeably by most people to describe the projectile fired from a gun and the propellant used to fire it. When the trigger is pulled, the propellant (also called powder) is ignited. This burns so fast it is often mislabeled as an explosion. The force, combined with the very confined space, pushes the small projectile forward at incredible speeds. If desired, here is more detail (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physics_of_firearms) on this process.

A cartridge can be manually loaded into the bolt (particularly true for most shotguns, or for rifles that do not use a magazine). Otherwise, cartridges are loaded into a magazine.

Once 'fired', the gun ejects the spent shell casing (http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/x/38-special-shell-casings-9597824.jpg) (a lever-action or bolt-action rifle does not do this automatically, but this style of rifle is increasingly uncommon among militaries, save for snipers). This shell casing is quite hot, though cools quickly. Once the shell casing is ejected, the gun needs to be loaded again. In a pump-action shotgun, you "pump (http://giphy.com/gifs/reaction-shotgun-kUU1anA0wLZBe)" to load a new cartridge. Most modern rifles and pistols will load another cartridge automatically, while a revolver rotates to the next bullet.

A magazine simply holds cartridges, ready to be loaded automatically when needed. A pump-action shotgun typically holds between 4-8 (sometimes more) cartridges. A revolver typically holds 5, 6, or 8. A pistol typically holds between 5-12, and a rifle can hold between 5 (for hunting rifles) to 30 or more cartridges. The magazine is "clicked" or locked into place, usually but not always on the underside of the barrel. Once a magazine is in place, the gun must be cocked (or pumped) manually, but only once. This loads a single cartridge in place. (Bonus: this is the origin of the phrase "half-cocked", when you jump into something without being fully prepared.)

As noted by others above, an automatic weapon is any weapon that can automatically load and fire a cartridge one after another, as long as the trigger is depressed. Semi-automatic designates a weapon that can automatically load a new cartridge but will not fire unless the trigger is depressed for every shot. These two terms can be used to describe any weapon, not just rifles or pistols. Automatic firearm firing is inaccurate.

Recoil is the force of a gun moving away from a fired cartridge. A bullet travels out of the gun very fast, but is also small. Hence a shooter will not fly backwards after firing a shot, and a human hit by a bullet will also not fly backwards after being hit. But recoil can hurt, particularly if the stock is not placed against the shoulder properly (or if a pistol or scope is held too close to the face). Being hit with your own scope is referred to as "being scoped" and is not uncommon among new shooters, but is very rare for anyone with firearm training.

Caliber, or cal, is a description of cartridge size. Larger calibers use more propellant to fire a larger projectile, which results in more recoil, but also more damage to the target.

Most modern firearms can fire in a vacuum or even underwater. However, water generates much more friction than air; bullets in water lose their speed very rapidly, resulting in the bullet only going through 2-20 feet of water (depending the caliber used and other circumstances) before coming to a complete stop. Bullets in water may also disintegrate from the increased friction, leaving naught but small pieces of metal behind. Firearms not designed for underwater use will not fire reliably underwater.

Bullets travel quickly, but they are not instantaneous. A variety of factors impact accuracy, particularly at long range, because the bullet is affected by them. Wind speed and direction, humidity, gravity, and other conditions must be accounted for by anyone firing at long ranges. This means snipers usually work with a teammate (called a spotter), and snipers are often very good at calculating and compensating for these factors. Most soldiers do not encounter such long ranges often enough for extensive training in these techniques.

Bullets penetrate some objects better than others. Larger calibers typically penetrate better. Wood planks and sheet rock are usually insufficient protection from a rifle or even a pistol. Cinderblocks are not always able to stop rifle rounds, but are better. Solid concrete, thick wood, sand bags, or dirt are best (or armored vehicles, thick steel, etc). The type of cartridge loaded into a gun can change how well it penetrates something.

There is no such thing as "bullet-proof" glass. Various types of glass, or clear materials like plastics, can withstand a certain number of hits from certain calibers of bullets. Even the best armored glass will eventually give way under a sufficient torrent of gunfire, assuming the caliber bullets being fired are large enough. The same can be said of body armor. Also, when body armor stops a bullet, the wearer usually still gets a nasty bruise, and sometimes worse.

In war, very few shots actually hit someone. Think 10,000 to 300,000 bullets per kill, depending on the war. The numbers are lower if you include injuries, and more like 2 bullets per kill for elite snipers.

#5: Depends on the needs of your story. If you aren't sure on something, feel free to ask!

#6: There is a ton of slang in every military, and a good amount of it revolves around guns and weapons. For your story, you will want to focus on interactions with certain characters. Pick a NATO country (or countries) these characters belong to and then ask this question, with the country(ies) named, in a new thread. You'll get much more focused, much better, results this way.